Photo: Patrick McDermott
Welcome back, everybody! The Capitals returned to action on Friday night, hosting the New York Rangers and being good hosts by giving their guests the puck pretty much the whole time. What should have been a blowout ended favorably for the Caps, thanks to some singular efforts by a few players in red.
Mike Green cracked Rangers goalie Cam Talbot (yeah, really) with a nifty power play goal set up by Marty Erat. The Rangers evened it up in the second with a powerplay marker of their own, converted by Benoit Pouliot. After a ton of zone time for the Rangers, Steve Oleksy set Nick Backstrom solo upon the offensive zone where he put the Caps up 2-1 going into the third. Carl Hagelin got a shorty just a couple seconds into the final period, but Eric Fehr restored the Caps lead with a wrister from the circles.
Caps beat Rangers 3-2.
- Adam Oates tapped Philipp Grubauer (does anyone pronounce it Grubrouwer sometimes?) for the start instead of Braden Holtby. Alain Vigneault tapped Cam Talbot instead of Henrik Lundqvist. So that’s two unproven goalies getting their reps in while two superior, more experienced goalies rode the pine. Maybe coaches think of themselves goalie whisperers, able to peer into their souls and predict their futures. If you were to ask me, I’d say you go with the future hall of famer and the guy whom the stats say will be an above-average goalie whenever you can. But I’m just some dude.
- Grubauer was pretty great though, particularly when fed to the wolves in the second period. Perfect at evens.
- The Capitals are not a strong team when it comes to puck possession, the single best predictor of future success that we’ve got. All that was evident in this one as the Rangers got the lion’s share of the shot attempts– more than 70% at one point. The top line is still doing great, so is the power play, but if anything happens to either of those– and if luck turns on the Caps– it’s gonna get really ugly in 2014.
- The possession anchors (as in sinking, not as in being reliable) were the bottom two lines: Erat’s and Beagle’s. Jay Beagle was on ice for exactly 0 unblocked shot attempts during 5v5. And what Volpatti is doing on this roster, I have no earthly idea.
- During a first-period interview, Calle Johansson urged Mike Green to “take a walk on the wild side.” In a second-period interview, Blaine Forsythe made children cry.
- The refs didn’t hesitate to use their whistles in this one, and though their soft calls were evenly distributed I’ve gotta think it benefited the Capitals. The less time spent playing 5-on-5, the better.
- Except when Nick Backstrom is on the ice. Backstrom looked in control the whole time, leading the team in on-ice shot attempts, scoring one very pretty goal Rambo-style, plus killing penalties. Ryan Lambert recently expressed doubt that Backstrom is actually any good, but there’s nothing to justify that. He improves Ovechkin’s play significantly and he’s damn good on his own. I wonder: if Backstrom weren’t such a low-key guy, would the broader hockey world be talking about him more? I bet they would. For now, I don’t really care. Nicky’s thing is doing hockey well and doing it quietly.
- I was waxing on Nicky there because, apart from the top line and Grubi, the rest of the team was pretty bad tonight. With one more exception…
- Eric Fehr, who shoulda had two. His third-period goal was excellent– and just as fortuitously timed as Backstrom’s– but his second-period non-goal was a heartbreaker, requiring video review to conclusively overturn. Fehr didn’t have a lot of scoring opportunities tonight, but he made ’em count.
Tonight’s recap is a bit subdued, and for that I apologize. I’m a little under the weather, so I must rely on you guys to make the jokes and supply the figurative language in the comments. I am happy to report that I’m not suffering the same symptoms Linus Omark is suffering from– what my grandma would call a “north and south flu.”
The Capitals got the W despite playing kind of atrociously at even strength. That’s their first legit win since December 20th. Hopefully this will be the low-water mark on the team’s possession issues, and we’ll see some corrective moves made soon.
Can’t keep winning ’em like this.
Tweet of the night:
@russianmachine why are you so awesome
— Justin (@Justincapsfan) December 28, 2013